Review – Loving Vincent

Poster for 2017 hand-painted animation Loving Vincent

Genre: Drama
Certificate: 12
UK Release Date: 13th October 2017
Runtime: 91 minutes
Director: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman
Writer: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Jacek Dehnel
Starring: Douglas Booth, Eleanor Tomlinson, Helen McCrory, Saoirse Ronan, Jerome Flynn, Chris O’Dowd, Robert Gulaczyk, Aidan Turner
Synopsis: The son of a postman carries out an investigation into the apparent suicide of Vincent Van Gogh, talking to those who knew him in order to decide whether the accepted account of what happened is true.



In 2017, we’re used to seeing the visual boundaries of cinema being stretched. We’ve come a long way from a train arriving at a station and now we greet sights from photo-realistic apes to supernaturally warped cities without as much as a shrug. You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s no room for cinematic invention any more, right up until the point at which you see Loving Vincent – the first ever oil-painted movie. It might be a cliché to say every frame of a movie is a painting but, in this case, that’s literally true.

The film follows Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) on a unique journey to deliver a letter. Roulin is the son of a postman (Chris O’Dowd) who used to deliver to famous artist Vincent Van Gogh (Robert Gulaczyk) and has one final letter the painter wrote to his brother. In trying to get the letter to the right recipient, Roulin meets various figures from Van Gogh’s life, including doctor Gachet (Jerome Flynn) and his beguiling, taciturn daughter (Saoirse Ronan).

From a narrative perspective, Loving Vincent isn’t much to shout about. It’s a film that simply follows its protagonist as he wanders between various French locales, stopping briefly to talk to people about Vincent Van Gogh, whose life is illuminated in nicely realised flashback sequences. Douglas Booth’s attractive, charismatic protagonist learns very little on the course of his journey and any viewer with even a passing knowledge of Van Gogh will be every bit as unenlightened as he is.

But no one has come to Loving Vincent for its story or its characters. The star of the show is the utterly unique and entirely spellbinding visual style, realised via the meticulous work of 115 painters and 131 animators, wrangling 65,000 exquisitely styled frames. The animation is seamless and yet maintains obvious brushstrokes so you are never in doubt that what you are watching is a portrait brought to life. There’s an undeniable thrill to seeing recognisable actors depicted in oil, from Chris O’Dowd’s bearded postman to Bron from Game of Thrones as a slightly shifty doctor.

The dialogue is on the nose and simplistic, but as a visual experiment, this is a film that should just be allowed to wash over the audience as they sit watching in the cinema. At times, it’s possible to almost forget the film itself and just focus on Loving Vincent‘s intoxicating visual spell.



Pop or Poop?

Rating: Pop!

It might not be a superhero smash-em-up or a compelling drama, but Loving Vincent is a real example of the cinematic art at its most innovative. Sadly, its limited big screen release means few will get to enjoy it at its most visually spectacle, but this is absolutely something that deserves to be enjoyed in all of its glory.


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